Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Richland-Shalom member advocates for justice

One piece of action that has come out of the PNC Fall Gathering and the Environmental Justice Team that formed is passage of Senate Bill 5947, establishing the Sustainable Farms and Fields Grant Program

Lora Rathbone works through her church’s Mission Social Justice Action Committee to promote members’ involvement in issues.  Her passion is for environmental justice.
Photo courtesy of Lora Rathbone

The legislation’s passage means state funds go to farmers who voluntarily do practices that sequester carbon like no till, cover crops, planting trees, and reduced pesticide and fertilizer use.

It was signed by Governor Jay Inslee in early March

Lora Rathbone, a member of Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland’s Mission Social Action Committee and the PNC Environmental Justice Team, said the bill was written by Carbon Washington in a way that would elicit bipartisan support and support from Eastern and Western Washington.

Lora also worked with the Tri-Cities Faith Action Network to spread the word and educate people at Shalom UCC, in the community and around the PNC on the Sustainable Farming Bill—working with Faith Action Network and Earth Ministry Interfaith Power and Light. They gathered signatures and urged people in congregations to contact their representatives and express support for passing the bill.

Lora succeeded in drawing reporter Courtney Flatt from Northwest Public Broadcasting (NWPB) to do a story that is online at

Lora invited the reporter, Courtney, to come when her church was doing a service for Evolution Sunday, recognizing Charles Darwin’s birthday by having a focus on climate change, with LeeAnn Beres, executive director of Earth Ministry, speaking.

In the report on how climate stewardship connects Eastern Washington faith and farming to legislative action in Olympia, the reporter covered the service, the bill and a local farmer.

It included Earth Ministry, Shalom UCC, information on the bill and information on the Faith Action Network advocacy day in Yakima.

The story opens telling of members of Shalom UCC in Richland singing environmental hymns at its Feb. 9 worship.

“Climate change isn’t a new topic for the progressive church, but it is perhaps tinged with new urgency. Survey results from the Pew Research Center show that congregations are delving into environmental awareness recently,” the reporter said.

She then quoted LeeAnne saying that “climate change is the most important moral issue of this generation,” and commenting that science and religion go hand-in-hand.

Lora, who moved to Richland in 1984 and has been a member at Shalom UCC since about 1990, said she had suggested that the Environmental Justice Team focus on the Sustainable Farms and Fields Bill, because she had been working on promoting it and saw that the effort fit the focus of choosing an action item that could bring measured results.

Lora has been involved with the Mission and Social Action Committee for a long time.  In April with Earth Day, it has usually focused on environmental issues, which are her passion, particularly climate change.

She is also involved with the Faith Action Network on environmental issues, with the Tri Cities Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby working on a federal carbon fee plan, and with the Go Green Tri-Cities website and Facebook page.

“Go Green focuses on green living information and has an event calendar,” she said.  “Our Facebook page has more than 800 likes.

“Church is the place for environmental work,” said Lora, who has followed efforts of climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe to reach evangelical Christians on climate change.

The issue of climate change has become politicized, so Republicans and some Christians feel it is a hoax,” she said, hoping the witness of other Christians concerned about climate change might raise broader concern.  “Pope Francis has an encyclical about environmental protection.  Our faith also is based on the idea that we are to be stewards of creation, and that caring about the eco-system is a way to care about people.”

Lora shared in the report that she’s aware progress often comes just in “baby steps,” but the more people hear about something, the more likely they are to respond.

Nonetheless, she seeks to integrate advocacy into the life of the church

She told of Jessie Dye, formerly with Earth Ministry, coming to the Tri-Cities to speak with Catholic churches and having some people bristle.

“It’s a long term goal to get the message to conservative churches and conservatives who are in progressive churches,” she said.  “We need to be careful in sharing.”

Lora said that in the NWPB story, LeeAnne spoke of the faith community having the language and ability to articulate values in ways that cut across political and partisan divides.

Being on the Environmental Justice Team has been encouraging for her, because she often feels alone.  So she values being with people who care about environment and knowing that others are working on climate change around the state.

Steve Eriksen, pastor at Shalom, speaks of the need to be stewards of the earth, she said.

In the NWPB story, he said churches connect people with differing social viewsand that “creation care is something we’ve all been called to do” as part of a “higher calling” to have an impact on the society and environment.

For information, call 509-375-1954 or email


Copyright © March 2020 - Pacific NW United Church News



Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share